The government plans to extend the COVID-19 wage supplement beyond March and talks are ongoing about it with social partners, Robert Abela said on Thursday.

Introduced last year after the pandemic slowed down the economy, the wage supplement has since been extended several times and was due to expire next month.

In February the government tweaked the scheme to base it on the level of losses suffered by businesses as a result of COVID-19.

The prime minister said that now that the country is on the path to economic recovery, it would be counterproductive for the authorities to pull the plug on economic support.

Video: AFP

“It does not make sense for us at this moment in time, when we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, to remove support that is crucial for our businesses.”

The daily number of COVID-19 cases remain in triple figures in Malta, but the country's vaccination programme is the fastest in the EU per 100 people. 

Responding to media questions as to whether his aim for the country to return to business as usual in May was still achievable, Abela said he was as determined as ever to reach that target.

“I’m saying this with the utmost confidence. We are now leading in Europe in the number of vaccinations per capita.”

He explained that combining a strong vaccination program with strong economic measures gave him confidence that by May the country would have arrived “where we want to be.”

'Digital and green transformation'

Abela's comments came after he addressed a business conference, where he said a strong post COVID-19 economic strategy would embrace a 'digital and green transformation' for which the pandemic had been a "catalyst". 

He explained that businesses which were most robust during the pandemic were the ones that were operating in the digital world and those that were able to quickly adapt to it.

The two transformations Abela was referring to were key recommendations in a 2020 report by the National Productivity Board discussed at that morning’s conference.

The Board, set up in February 2019, diagnoses and analyses productivity and competitiveness in Malta, and its latest report suggests that recovery will only be successful if it is accompanied by the restructuring of the economy.

Abela said that he would be presenting the recommendations from the report to cabinet.

“To achieve these changes we need to work together. Our prosperity can only be achieved if we operate as ‘Team Malta’,” he said.

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